theScore is counting down the 100 best fictional characters in sports movie history, with a new post every weekday until July 3.
"A League of Their Own" (1992)
Were it not for Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller nagging scout Ernie Capadino, homely infielder Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanagh) would have been left behind in Colorado instead of becoming the Rockford Peaches' best hitter. While laughing at Marla's aversion to being prototypically pretty is worth a chuckle at first, watching her overcome self-esteem issues (thanks in part to some alcohol) to marry the man of her dreams is her finest moment.
"The Karate Kid" (1984)
As far as 1980s sports villains are concerned, William Zabka's portrayal of lead Cobra Kai bully, Johnny Lawrence, is up there with the best of them. Throughout "The Karate Kid," Lawrence makes Daniel LaRusso's life a living hell, right up until the two battle in a final showdown that features the legendary crane kick.
"D2: The Mighty Ducks" (1994) and "D3: The Mighty Ducks" (1996)
Though the "Mighty Ducks" films had diminishing returns with each sequel, Russ Tyler (Kenan Thompson) and his signature "knucklepuck" shot rank high among the later films' best additions. Perhaps owing to the actor's now record-breaking reign on "Saturday Night Live," Thompson's involvement in the series has stood the test of time despite him not appearing in the original.
Coach Dale (Gene Hackman) isn't flawless, but that only serves to make him a more nuanced, interesting character than the typical win-at-all-costs tyrants who often man the benches in sports films. Hackman achieves great results by balancing his broiling intensity with emotional sensitivity.
"The Program" (1993)
In "The Program," Duane Davis plays Alvin Mack, a linebacker for the ESU Timberwolves who appears to have a bright NFL future ahead of him even though he can barely read. Mack isn't a dummy by any means; he's just so invested in football that the system has forgotten to give him the tools to do anything but play the game, thus leading him to become the centerpiece of the film's most heartbreaking scene.
"The Bad News Bears" (1976)
Before Jackie Earle Haley shot to superstardom as Rorschach, the actor played rebellious nomad Kelly Leak in the 1976 version of "The Bad News Bears." The youngster not only has an affinity for women, gambling, and smoking, but it turns out he's one heck of a ballplayer, too.
Warning: Video contains coarse language
At the beginning of "Goon," Liev Schreiber's Ross "The Boss" Rhea operates similar to the shark in "Jaws" - you get early glimpses of the monstrous, minor-league hockey enforcer but don't fully appreciate the full scope of his brutality until the film's third act, when the veteran enforcer goes toe-to-toe with protagonist Doug (Seann William Scott).
"Rocky III" (1982)
Mr. T's first notable screen role came as ferocious bruiser Clubber Lang in "Rocky III," which helped launch the actor toward superstardom and legendary status. I pity the fool who doesn't marvel at Lang's training montage and aggressive ring demeanor in this classic sports flick that helped transform Rocky's relationship with Apollo Creed, a man he beat one film earlier.
"He Got Game" (1998)
Warning: Video contains coarse language
Ex-con Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) is the fly in the ointment, complicating what should be a straightforward, above-the-board recruiting process for his son, high school star Jesus (Ray Allen). Washington's abilities on the blacktop proved crucial for a scene later in the film, where he holds his own (for a bit) against the real-life NBA star.
"The Waterboy" (1998)
In one of Adam Sandler's finest performances, Bobby Boucher goes from intellectually challenged water boy to college football superstar. A victim of bullying for years, Boucher channels his pent up rage to become a dominant linebacker and picks up his childhood crush along the way - despite the wishes of his overprotective "mama."